Ariane Leendertz is Head of the Research Group “The Economization of the Social and the History of Complexity” at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies in Cologne. Her research interests lie in German and American history of the twentieth century, with special focus on the links between intellectual history, the history of science, and political history.
Her research project within the GMPG Research Program is “Changes in Corporate Imagination and Institutional Consequences, 1970s to the Present.” It focuses on the contexts in which the problem of fixed-term contracts was discussed in the MPG since the 1970s. While in 1995, just under 34 percent of Max Planck researchers were employed on fixed-term contracts, this ratio was reversed in only ten years. This rapid development cannot be explained with the MPG’s specific structural principles alone. The project argues that since the 1990s, the MPG has redefined itself in a way that resembles a financialized firm in a global market. Powerful social and political discourses about globalization, competitiveness, flexibilization, New Public Management and the knowledge-based economy triggered a change in corporate imagination, which had institutional repercussions. Decision makers began to situate the Max Planck Society in a global competition for reputation and for a very small number of outstanding scientists with universities such as Harvard, Stanford, MIT or Cambridge. Gaining and maintaining a position as a global leader in science required the Max Planck Society to incorporate a number of new instruments and orientations into the organization, including the imperative of “flexibility” with regard to personnel structures and contracts. The project is situated at the interface of the history of science, organizational sociology, governmentality studies and contemporary history.